Sage Advice: “Playing the Drinking Water Card”– Strategies for River Conservationists (selected pertinent excerpts)

Source:  River Voices, Fall, 1996, River Network.  Authored by Don Elder and Rita Haberman

“Potential problems Created by Drinking Water Use:

Dams.  Hundreds of rivers across the nation have been dammed unnecessarily in the name of meeting future public drinking water needs.

The most common justification offered for damming a public water supply river is a claim that it is necessary to do so in order to secure greater quantity of water to meet predicted long-term public demands.  Another reason is that dams can result in higher chemical water quality, at least in terms of the relative concentrations of substances that settle to the bottom of a reservoir.   Finally, it is often argued that damming a relatively remote and previously untapped river or stream can provide ample water quantity and quality less expensively than any other alternative course of action.

These arguments for damming a free-flowing river may be shallow, incomplete, based on faulty assumptions, and, in most cases, simply incorrect, but sadly, they still often carry the day—particularly where public officials are focused on the value of rivers for drinking water to the exclusion of other important public values rivers provide. 



Leapfrog Water Development…

Recommendations for River Conservationists:

Promote protection of Existing Supplies…

Promote Efficient Use of Existing Supplies.   Water efficiency is a significantly under-used strategy that can provide a multitude of benefits for rivers.  It is an alternative to additional water supply dams and diversions and related detrimental ecological and sociological impacts.  Water efficiency helps maintain healthy flows for fish and wildlife and recreational uses.  It protects water quality by keeping flows higher and diluting pollutants as well as by indirectly reducing the amounts of wastewater discharged back to streams.  Water efficiency also saves households, businesses, and public water and energy utilities tremendous amounts of money.  …

Promote Wastewater Reuse …

Convince People Whose Water Comes for the Ground that a “Watershed Approach” also Protects Their Drinking Water Interests…

Build Alliances with Water Utilities…

Become Involved in Your Region’s Long-Range Water Supply Planning.  Inflated projections of population growth and water use tend to drive bigger, costlier, and more damaging water supply and wastewater projects.  Support reasonable population growth and water use projections.  Support active management of water demands.  Promote expenditure of a portion of the large amounts of monies to be saved through reasonable planning on source protection and progressive demand-management programs.

Understand The Economics of Drinking Water

Include a Growth Management Component in Your Overall River Conservation Strategy.  As long as sprawl growth or spread development (sprawl without population increase) occurs on the edge of metropolitan centers, the quality of many existing and potential water supplies will be threatened.  Make sure to incorporate a groundwater management strategy in your overall river conservation program—regardless of its name or structure.  If other organizations are already working on this issue,  form alliances with them.  If not, consider convincing one or more to work on it with you, or to serve as a catalyst for the formation of a new group that will.”…



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